Take the Ghanaian Traditions to the Next Level

By Oluyinka Akinjiola

This year’s Sankofa African Dance & Drum Ensemble featured guest artist Yesutor Kotoka and her choreography Adzogbo. With only two trips to our campus Kotoka set her choreography on the Sankofa ensemble. This 16-minute work included five sections of traditional Ghanaian dance, music and songs. This display of artistry and commitment reignited a legacy that began at Brockport with Dr. Alfred Opoku, former artistic director of the Ghana Dance Ensemble and faculty member in the Department of Dance.

Kotoka began her traditional dance studies and performance career at the age of eight with the Center for National Culture and with the Folkloric Selamta Company in Ghana.  During her training with Master Laryea she began to understand the integral part of African culture, dance, and the meaning of gestures in movement. In 1995, Kotoka auditioned for the Ghana Dance Ensemble.  After only completing one quarter of her audition Dr. Opoku asked her to join the Ensemble. While working with Dr. Opoku, Kotoka explained that “he makes sure you take the Ghanaian traditions to the next level, [know] why you are doing it, why it’s done, its importance to the society and to the country as a whole.”

Since leaving the Ghana Dance Ensemble, Kotoka became director of the Folkloric Selamta Company and has taught students from throughout Europe and the United States. Kotoka explains that “my connection with the students is the most important thing for me. One of the things that Prof. Opoku and my master Laryea taught me was as you travel around the world teaching and exposing people to African dance, and the knowledge of it, one important thing is the connection between you and your dancers. The connection is what the dance is. That connection brings out what they can do.”

This connection was evident in Kotoka’s Adzogbo. The cast of 15 dancers and accompaniment of student and community musicians represented the rich textures of Ghanaian culture. Kotoka’s goal in her choreography at Brockport and everywhere she travels is “to present the authenticity of Ghanaian and African dance, and it’s rich, unique, and complex music to students and the world.” Kotoka’s presence reunited Brockport with its rich history with Ghana, while also reminding her Ghanain cast members of home on the Hartwell stage.

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Undergraduate Scholars Represent Brockport at NCUR in Wisconsin

By Maya Gonzalez

It was an honor and a privilege to attend and present at the National Conference for Undergraduate Research (NCUR) this spring. The conference, held at the University of Wisconsin, Lacrosse, hosted an amalgam of different research projects, presented in varying forms consisting of theatre and dance performances, power point presentations, oral presentations, lectures and even art exhibits. I had the incredible opportunity to both perform in a colleague’s work and present my own research to an audience. The experience was eye-opening and exciting, and I traveled with and met some very interesting, very smart people.

Presenting work to a body of like-minded students and interested faculty members was an exhilarating experience. My peers and I discussed our excitement about having the chance to show your work and research to an engaged, friendly and supportive audience. Receiving feedback and engaging in a discussion post-presentation is an extremely satisfying, fulfilling undertaking as well. Being able to do the things that I so love and have a deep passion for, in addition to being able to speak about my experiences doing so, brought out in me a new degree of appreciation for the artistic and academic worlds that I have thus far been a part of. As a communications minor as well as a BFA dance major at the College at Brockport, this adventure solidified my two current fields of study and brought them together in a way that reassured me of my goals and ambitions.

At NCUR, we were given the time and resources to create a dialogue with those who are willing to listen about the concepts and disciplines that we are currently investigating. As a student currently right in the middle of her college career and beginning to discover her truest, deepest life dreams, what more could I have asked for? I can only hope that in the coming years I may participate in further events such as this.

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A Reason to Kick Up Your Heels

By Adrian Safar

The Brockport Student Chapter of the National Dance Education Organization (NDEO) have high hopes that some old-time community building might just rub off on our 21st century families. This group, driven by ideas centered on interaction between artists, art, dance, history and neighbors created a palette of events over its recent years.

This year the chapter held, with much success, its first Hoedown. This social event featured the live music of the Golden Eagle String Band and organized both contra- and line-dance. For many of the roughly 25 attendees this was a completely new cultural experience. “This was a different way of socializing and entertaining that many people aren’t used to today,” said one student. Though the crowd was small, smiles and laughter were contagiously embodied. Once the caller began explaining the moves and started making calls it was hard not to have a smile on your face as everyone began to dance wondering what they were doing.

A version of this most recent Hoedown will continue to be hosted in an effort to bring dance to the village of Brockport and create an atmosphere for revolution through intergenerational dialogue within a climate of national transformation. Dance, often relegated to only teenagers and professionals, will be shared and experienced in a moment where teachers, students, and grandparents interact outside the home and school where often intimidation and “power” are present. Dance is the platform for the dialogue that produces change.

The forward thinking minds of NDEO Brockport have already begun to lay out a path for working with a local museum to host a Children’s Hoedown and investing in a fusion event called the Hip-Hop Hoedown. There is an endeavor to increase opportunities through happenings, events, and projects, for local artists and artisans to be involved in their community and collaborate, teach and share with local groups to commemorate history and heritage. It is in this sharing of knowledge the future becomes a horizontal playing field where ideas can be shared and developed without fear of being tipped onto a downward vertical spiral.

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Brockport on the Road: Reflections from the American College Dance Festival

Fresh off a week of Spring Break, a group of dancers from Brockport embarked on a trip to Hofstra University on Long Island for the American College Dance Festival (ACDF) from March 25-28. Below are accounts from two students on their experience and its impact on their dance education.

Chloe Leibrick, Sophomore Dance and Spanish Adolescent Education Major:

When I was sent the ACDF class schedule for the first time, I was not only shocked by how many classes were offered, but by how many different kinds of classes were available. Despite the slightly harrowing process of the mass registration that ensued on our first night, I was able to sign up for several incredible classes. For instance, one of the first classes I took was Lindy Hop. I chose this class simply out of curiosity, and was so pleasantly surprised!

I also had the privilege of attending David Dorfman’s master class on the last day of our week at Hofstra. I had only taken one class with him before, and I was excited to immerse myself in his style of modern dance once again. I saw people of all ages and all cultures, disregarding and overcoming any and all barriers between one another and moving together as individuals with a common purpose.

Aside from the classes, I was absolutely stunned by the incredible performances that I was able to attend at this festival. Night after night, I was inspired by gorgeous dancers, bold choreographic choices, stunning costume and musical elements, and an overwhelming sense of passion for one’s art.

I will always cherish my experience at the American College Dance Festival. I took nine incredible classes that each taught me something new about one of my greatest passions; I witnessed some of the most spectacular performances I have ever seen, both in educational and professional settings; I connected with dancers from all over the country, some of whom I continue to keep in-touch with. I am so blessed to have been given so many gifts from this incredible conference, most importantly, the hope for a bright and beautiful future in the world of dance.

Allison Bohman, First Year MFA:

Attending the 2013 American College Dance Festival at Hofstra University was truly an honor. Not only was I proud to be attending as a representative from The College at Brockport, but a sense of community within the dance world as a whole was evident throughout this entire conference. It instilled a sense of excitement in me for the future of dance. Hundreds of dancers, dozens of colleges, and an endless display of talent combined to create an outstanding week of dancing and by the end, we were a community of dance artists, rather than dancers from separate schools.

Throughout the week, I had the opportunity to take a variety of dance classes. From ballet to Jamaican dance hall, to modern classes with Paul Taylor company dancers to lindy hop and massage for dancers. It was wonderful trying new things, while still working on techniques, like ballet, that I have been practicing for my entire life. In the Dance in The Community class I participated in, I experienced unique ways to bring dance into the community, specifically in a public school setting. At this particular festival, it was special see how small the world of dance is. Even though the conference was comprised of a variety of different colleges, in the end, we all will be working together in the field of dance. I found ACDF to be an excellent networking tool as well as mutual ground on which I ran into old friends from past dance concerts, summer camps, and training schools.

In addition to the outstanding classes offered, ACDF provides students with the chance to see a lot of dance. At the end of the week, a special gala performance was held, showcasing what the adjudicators had deemed as the strongest pieces. I am thrilled that both of the pieces submitted by The College at Brockport were selected to perform in this gala! Choreography by Angie Muzzy and Nicole Kaplan, combined with strong performances and dancing by Brockport dancers, made me proud to be representing Brockport. It was exciting to see these dances that I once witnessed on the Brockport stage, come to life again on a different stage.

The American College Dance Festival Association’s mission to “foster creative potential, to honor multiple approaches to scholarly and creative research and activity, to promote excellence in choreography and/or performance, and to give presence and value to diversity in dance” was definitely apparent through my experiences this week. Most importantly, I was reminded of why I love dance so much. I am honored to have been given the opportunity to attend this conference and look forward to utilizing all that I learned this week in contributing to the future of dance.

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Coming Soon: DANCE/Strasser

DANCE/Strasser, featuring choreography by undergraduate and graduate students from The College at Brockport’s nationally renowned Department of Dance, will be performed Thursday through Saturday, April 4 – 6, 2013, at 7:30 pm in Rose L. Strasser Studio in Hartwell Hall, Kenyon Street, Brockport.

The new works included in the showing highlight choreography and performance technique by students in one of the nation’s most respected college dance programs. All of the works go through rigorous adjudication and mentoring processes, in which the Department of Dance’s faculty encourage students to refine their choreographic vision and coach the dancers.

The concert features an MFA thesis project, “Clean This Up and Tie a Pretty Bow on it,” by graduate student Elizabeth Osborn. In this dance, Osborn mines the post-modern choreography of the 1960s to cultivate her own task-based movement vocabulary. This year’s spring concert also features a number of duets in which the choreographers each depict a unique, nuanced relationship between two people. Karl Rogers, Assistant Professor and Artistic Director of the concert, comments that “After seeing these works grow through the adjudication process, it is surprising how varied the duet form can be.” On the other side of the spectrum, Justin Bass’ “Vibe” and Christine Benincasa’s “Prism Dream Fragments” are vibrant group works that inhabit the entire stage and display powerhouse dancing. An added attraction to this program will be the winning work of the Student Dance Organization’s “Dancing With the Athletes” competition.

Ticket prices:
$15/General
$10/Seniors, Brockport Alumni, Faculty and Staff
$8/Students
Tickets are available by phone at (585) 395-2787 or at the Tower Fine Arts Center Box Office. Visit www.brockport.edu/finearts for more information.
Any previously unsold tickets will be available for purchase at the Hartwell Box Office one hour prior to each performance.

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This Week: David Dorfman Dance Guest Artist Residency!

It’s finally here, Guest Artist week in the Department of Dance! As promised, David Dorfman is here, along with his company to spend the week teaching, rehearsing, participating in a panel discussion, and performing.

Some upcoming highlights:

Wednesday
2:30pm in Hartwell Theater
“Of Politics, Performance, and the Seeping Nature of Democratic Values” Lecture
Featuring Candace Feck of Ohio State University

Thursday
12:30pm in Hartwell Theater
“The Choreographies of Politics” Roundtable Discussion
Featuring:
David Dorfman, Artistic Director of David Dorfman Dance
Candace Feck, Professor of Dance at Ohio State University,
Barbara LeSavoy, Director of Women and Gender Studies
Dr. Andrea Cioliotta-Rubery, Professor of Political Science
Karl Rogers Professor of Dance and performing company member for David Dorfman Dance
Maura Keefe, PhD., Chair of the Department of Dance

7:30pm in Strasser Studio
David Dorfman Dance Performance, followed by a post-performance discussion.
Get your tickets at the BSG Box Office, or on their NEW website!

Modern Dance Classes Open to Observation:
Monday 9:05am and 11:15am in Strasser Studio
Tuesday 9:30am in Studio 240 and 10:45am in Strasser Studio
Wednesday 9:05am in Studio 240 and 11:15am in Strasser Studio
Friday 11:15am in Studio 240 and Strasser Studio

For more information about David Dorfman Dance, including artist bios, check out the company’s website.

Special thanks to the Student Dance Organization (SDO) for sponsoring this event.

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Welcoming A New Costume Designer

By Erin Lowden
This past semester the department had the wonderful opportunity of welcoming a new costume designer to our community. Emma Scholl, former manager of the costume shop at The Hanger Theatre in Ithaca, NY, is now our full time costumer. She received her MFA in Costume Design from Florida State University and BA in Fashion, History, and Communications from Albright College. Originally Emma thought she wanted to design for theater, however she started working with the dance department at Bucknell University as an intern for a year and was, “mesmerized by the choreography and wanted to be involved in dance.” She then had opportunities to design for graduate thesis and faculty works at Florida State University solidifying her interest in costume design for dance. In the fall semester Emma designed the costumes for DANSCORE and MFA theses. Emma’s work has also been seen at the Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble, Steel River Playhouse, and the Milburn Stone Theatre.

She says that she loves the Brockport community and the support she has received from the faculty and students. We are all thrilled to have such a talented costumer in the department and are excited to see her designs come to life this upcoming semester!

You can see more of Emma’s work at her website.

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Save the Dates! Upcoming Shows for Spring 2013

In true Brockport fashion, the spring semester is jam packed with opportunities to see some great dance performances! Here are some highlights of what’s coming up, so mark your calendars!

Dance + Wine: Process in Progress
An Informal Showing with Feedback and Spirits
Featuring work by MFA Candidates Anna Corvera, Amanda McCullum, and Elizabeth Osborn
Saturday, February 2
6:30pm
Tango Cafe

Bill Evans Dance Company presents – RRROX Rochester Rhythm and Romance: Jazz Hugs and Tap Kisses
February 13-17
Wednesday 7:00pm
Thursday 5:30pm and 7:30pm
Friday and Saturday 5:30pm and 8:00pm
Sunday 2:00pm and 4:00pm
Downstairs Cabaret Theater

The Metallic Series by Red Dirt Dance
Artistic Director Karl Rogers, Assistant Professor of Dance
February 15 & 16, 7:30pm
Multiuse Community Cultural Center

Dance/Strasser
April 4-6
7:30pm Thursday through Saturday
2pm Saturday

Dance/Hartwell
April 18-20, 7:30pm

Mariah Maloney Dance
April 27
Visual Studies Workshop

Sankofa
May 2-4
7:30pm Thursday through Saturday
2pm Saturday and Sunday

Graduation Dances
May 17
6:30pm and 8:00pm

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54 New Dancers Dancing

By Angie Muzzy

What do you get when you audition 54 dancers, create 15 dances, and perform three shows? The 9th Annual New Dancers Showcase. The number of new students that entered the Department of Dance has grown again, making this year’s class the largest to date! The performances were packed with family and friends to see what our new students were up to all semester. As the concert coordinator and a choreographer I had the pleasure of seeing the dances from their conception to the final project and it was a joy to be a part of the process.

The show stopper was, Vamp Stamp, by Chelsea Gavazzi (MA ’13) a voguing tap medley set to the music of Kevin Aviance. What is voguing you might ask? It is a highly stylized, modern house dance that evolved out of the Harlem ballroom scene in the 1980s most notably made famous by Madonna and has recently regained popularity. If you know how to “shablam” you know what I’m talking about.

This year we tried something new: not only did we have graduate students and faculty members choreograph, we had four eager BFA dance majors participate as well. One of our talented seniors, Christine Benincasa created a sextet titled Intersecting Edges. I asked her what the inspiration for the glow sticks was; she said, “My dancers! They wanted to use them and of course I said why not?” The piece was a fun, upbeat exploration of space with dancers swirling in and out of the floor, lifting one another and circling in the dark as their luminous rings, wrapped around their wrists, appeared to float magically in the air. Another senior, Rebecca Puretz will be taking her piece, Collateral Collapse, to Brooklyn in March to perform at DanceWaves Kid’s Café Festival. This venue offers serious high school dancers an opportunity to see dance departments from esteemed schools in action and to gain information about what it is like to be a college dance major. Not so long ago our new dancers were in these “kids” shoes. I guarantee our students will have an abundance of experiences to share about being a dancer in our distinguished program.

The New Dancers Showcase was a great success with generous help and support of our choreographers, faculty advisors and most importantly the artistic director, William Evans. I would like to applaud all of our new dancers for making this yearly tradition both exciting and memorable!

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Class Act – David Dorfman Dance Company Coming Soon

By Jen Dayton

Looking for something creative, captivating and contemporary to set your eyes on? The opportunity to see the David Dorfman Dance Company in action is coming to the campus at Brockport. In the upcoming spring semester, David Dorfman Dance will be in residency at the college at Brockport. This is very exciting news for the Department of Dance because Assistant Professor Karl Rogers is a company member himself.

David Dorfman Dance has been around since 1985 and is one of the top modern dance companies. The company has been honored with eight New York Dance and Performance (“Bessie”) Awards and has performed extensively in New York City and throughout North and South America, Great Britain, and Europe. David Dorfman Dance offers contemporary movement through space in its own unique and brilliant style and the college at Brockport is already buzzing with excitement to have the opportunity to work with David Dorfman and his company members.

This past summer, dance major Morgan Hasson and I took part in the David Dorfman Summer Intensive at Connecticut College. The experience we had with the company and other dancers that attended was unbelievable. Even though the intensive was only one week long, we received more information and experienced dance at a level beyond our imaginations. During the week, we took text, improvisation, repertoire, technique, and partnering classes with David, Lisa Race (David’s wife and former company member), and current company members, Karl Rogers, Whitney Tucker, Kendra Portier, and Raja Kelly. Morgan and I were truly amazed and inspired in each class we attended. On any particular day, whoever was teaching class really helped us understand the concept of what was being taught and how it related to the company’s work. Some of the most influential ideas I took away from the intensive were how to move efficiently, trust yourself, and the impact contact improvisation can have on dance.

At the tail end of the intensive, a global underscore took place, an annual event during which dancers around the world simultaneously unite in dance. Now for those of you who do not know what the underscore is Nancy Stark Smith explains the underscore in her book “Caught Falling.” Nancy Stark Smith states, “… It is a score that guides dancers through a series of ‘changing states,’ from solo deepening/releasing to sensitizing to gravity and support; through group circulation and interaction, Contact Improvisation engagements, opening out to full group improvisation with compositional awareness, and back to rest and reflection. The Underscore can be seen as a vehicle for incorporating Contact Improvisation into a broader arena of improvisational practice…”

For me, being part of the global underscore was awe inspiring. It brought the energy of dancers together from all over the world, including the David Dorfman Summer Intensive participants. Together, our spirits were combined and a magical feeling was created in the room at Connecticut College. Everyone’s passion for dance was pulsing in unison, creating rhythmic and energetic uniqueness. As everyone improvised with dancers they did not necessarily know, we came together through familiarity with the various movements being created in space. It was definitely a sight to see, something beautiful in the making.

Needless to say, everyone at the college at Brockport should mark their calendars for the David Dorfman Company residency. The company as a whole is open minded and invites everyone to take part in what they do, as they try to get to know each dancer and help him or her grow and learn. Working with the company was a life changing experience!

Editor’s Note: David Dorfman Dance will be on campus the week of February 25th, 2013. This residency is sponsored by the Student Dance Organization (SDO). Stay tuned for details about a performance you won’t want to miss featuring David Dorfman Dance to take place in Strasser Studio!

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